Gambling Addiction

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Are you experiencing…

  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Extreme preoccupation with winning and losing
  • Rationalizing gambling behavior

Gambling addiction is a behavioral addiction that ranks among the most common next to alcohol and other substances. It is one of the more common process addictions with the same effects as any other addictions, disrupting school or job performance, hurting relationships, and capable of developing dependency as well as withdrawal symptoms.

Often gambling starts out as an innocent source of entertainment. However, the pleasure of winning activates the same pleasure centers in the brain as do cocaine and heroin. Dopamine is the most commonly affected neurotransmitter when the person experiences pleasure. Dopamine levels increase by several folds even when the gambler enjoys a small victory.

The Phases of Gambling Addiction

Winning
Losing
Desperation
Hopeless

The second phase of gambling addiction, which often leads to the formation of gambling as a predicted behavior is the natural tendency that all humans have, where pleasurable behavior is rewarding, and therefore the person “learns” of gambling as a rewarding behavior.

The third phase of this addiction is often noted by avoidance of a painful experience, in this case losing. Once loosing occurs, which is always expected to happen, the addicted person experiences the opposite of a reward: they experience punishment. However, the person quickly “learns” that the best way to avoid the painful feelings of losing (punishment) is to engage in what was once rewarding: more gambling.

And so the roller coaster begins, and gambling turns into one strongly formed type of addiction. The addiction receives its strength both by the activation of the reward center in the brain (when one wins) and by the temporary avoidance the painful emotions (punishment of losing) by doing more gambling.

Magical Thinking

Something else that also happens along the way is the formation of some type of magical thinking. For example, gamblers often believe they have formed some type of cause and effect relationship between their gambling and their winning incidences. Wearing a lucky shirt, betting in progressively larger amounts of bets, and going in on certain days of the week or certain hours of the day, are among the magical thinking patterns.

Gambling, as true with substance addiction, can lead to secondary physical and mental illnesses.

Sleep disorders, anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, problems with concentration and interpersonal conflicts in one’s home and work environment are frequently found to be co-occurring. Sexual dysfunction, elevated blood pressure, body pain and fatigue, inflammation and digestive issues are also among the physical issues reported. Financial distress is a common result and stressor.

How we Treat Gambling Addiction

Psychologists at the Feeling Good Wellness Center, begin the treatment of gambling by learning first hand from the affected person, how gambling has negatively affected their specific circumstances.

Gambling is a “catch-all” phrase, but how it affects each person is specific and one of a kind.

During the second phase of the treatment, psychologists at the Feeling Good Wellness Center use advanced application of cognitive behavioral therapy to help the person recognize the advantages and disadvantages of gambling behavior.

Surprisingly, there can be some reasons why the gambler might want to continue the gambling behavior: not having to maintain a lower paying job, not wishing to forego the excitement, not wishing to live a dull sounding lifestyle compared to that of the gambling arenas.

During the final phase of treatment, psychologists at the Feeling Good Wellness Center help the patient in organizing a clear and well described behavioral and cognitive game plan to be put in place of the old addictive ones.

Similarly to other forms of addictions, medications and some other fancy mental stimulations such as electrodes and shocks are avoided, and treatment for gambling is done from the inside of the mind when the person is 100% committed to overcoming the gambling problems that have negatively affected their health.